Saturday, October 8, 2011

An interesting day in rural Pennsylvania

Yesterday was supposed to be a day of boots and utes as the back yard needs its annual mowing over.

I wanted to get to it but too much piddley stuff came up and I figured that if I didn't get started by noon it wasn't worth starting so when I saw it was noon-thirty and I wasn't quite finished with the piddley stuff I decided not to even bother.

Instead I opted to work in the driveway and the garage polishing up the powerpack I built for the PRC-320 radio I have. I now have a 12 amp-hour power pack. The issue batteries are 4 Ah batteries.

I installed a little voltmeter I snagged on eBay to keep an eye on the voltage and put a push button switch to be able to turn the meter on and off. The meter was covered with a piece of plexiglass and the push button was set into an old whisky bottle cap I have been saving for that purpose. The cap is to keep some ham handed oaf from accidentally turnint the thing on by mistake.

I also used a small trailer hitch plug to the power line to the radio to keep someone from plugging the thing in backwards and reversing the polarity and frying the set.

After that I saw it was a little late in the afternoon and the sun was going down so I decided to go for a glorious little end of the season run in the Mazda. The Miata, as many know has had work done to the suspension and is a joy to drive on country back roads.

I fired the little autocross rig up and headed to the Interstate to simply get out of the burbs and about twenty minutes later I was off of the rat race freeway and entering semi-rural Pennsylvania.

I kept heading north and the roads started curving a bit and were fun to drive on and I spent quite a bit of time booming and zooming my way deeper into the more rural parts of the state.

Most of the route I followed is the route I generally take a bunch of kids on for a ride in the bed of my pickup on a sultry summer night. It's illegal as hell, but there are a few things that every kid should experience and a pickup ride on a sultry summer night is one of them, state law be damned. I've posted this before as even though I have no children I am an associate member of the Grandfather's club. It really isn't a club, but three of us older guys. The other two have grandkids and I have a pickup truck. You figure it out.

Anyway, I neared the Mercer area tooling through the farm country enjoying the sights and smells and gearing down and up through the back roads and it occurred to me that it was probably time the Amish would be starting to come in from the fields and that the Dutchman that put my roof on lived a few miles away. I took a hard right and headed his way and when I arrived at his farm I saw sure enough that he was leading a team of horses to the barn.

I wanted to thank him for doing a first rate job on my roof and see how his life was going and see his sons. I consider these guys to be interesting people and his sons are old enough to be considered young men.

During the lunch breaks I chatted with these guys and I was straightforward in answering their questions. They sensed I was open and frank so they took advantage of it and had a number of questions which I answered and they answered mine. All in all it was interesting.

We chatted and one of the two sons was out hunting whch may surprise some, but many of the Amish are hunters. It is a common sight to see them in gun shops in Pennsylvania checking out hunting rifles and buying ammunition. Too bad, I missed him. He seemed to be the troubled one of the pair and I sensed that maybe he resented being Amish because I saw something bothering him that I couldn't quite figure out.

The other one had married last January and had the farm down the road. Time flies. Married.

The Dutchman and I chatted and swapped a few ideas about what to do with his beautiful slate roof as he was considering changing the ridge line. I suggested using copper as it would turn to copper oxide and some of it would sluff off and keep the mold from growing as his house was in a valley of sorts. Bottomland, fertile, fertile bottom land.

We looked at a shed he was building for some of his horse drawn machinery and I laughed. A lot of his income comes from carpentry and the shed looked like it was going up slowly and was sort of a spare time project. "Cobbler's children run around barefoot," I chuckled.

He looked mildly amused. He was too busy doing other people's work to get his shed built which seems par golf no matter if you are Amish, Jewish or Irish.

I think part of the reason I dropped by was to reaffirm that even though we all may be different, we are still all alike and I found an awful lot of common ground with this Dutchman.

He saw the Miata and asked me a couple of questions about it and when I mentioned ham radio he told me that there was a guy down the street from me that did that and he seemed mildly interested in the mechanics of being able to communicate with people from all over.

Funny, here he was asking me about radios and sports cars and I was asking him about horses. His work horses were smaller than the Belgiums and Percherons, but seemed like they got the job done. They were wet and tired from an afternoons work and he had to put them away so I took my leave and hopped in the Miata and slowly left and headed down the road.

As I passed the next Amish farm I looked and saw a familiar face behind a trio of Belgiums and it was the Dutchman's oldest son. I stopped and when he saw me his face lit up.

He was planting grain for his own use as feed for his animals.

When I was in Alaska the question I was asked by someone that wanted to hire me for something is "Are you busy?" It was a way of asking me if I had time to do something for them. The context of it was simple.

Are you busy? It covered both working for someone else and doing a project of your own. It took into consideration the fact that a person had his personal life and his professional life.

This young man was working for himself now, meaning his grain was for his own use and wasn't going to market.

He's 21 years old, married and is running a farm. That's a lot of responsibility.

I looked at him and smiled. "Looks like you survived rumspringa," I said. "Now you're married. Any kids on the way yet?"

"Not yet," he said.

"Start making one," I replied and watched him give me a mildly foolish grin in return.

I looked at his horse drawn machine and comented that it looked well used but simple and durable and briefly showed me how it worked. I think it was as old as I am and it looked like it is sure to outlast me.

His English (non Amish) counterpart at the age of 21 generally knows nowhere near the responsibility this young man has unless he is in the service somewhere running a government machine.

The average college kid has no clue as far as responsibilities go, and yet here was a young Amish man at the age of twenty-one running his own farm.

He was busy so I took my leave and boomed and zoomed through some more of rural Pennsylvania and saw where the sun was and decided to head back for the barn.

In the way I saw a parachute in the sky and my second look I saw it was a para-plane. I crossed it's path and shut the Miata's engine off to listen to the little engine powering it, then I fired it up again and off I went headed for home.

While I respect today's top gun fighter pilots, I have a very special place in my heart for the crackpots and dreamers that fly primitive machines like that. It is aviation at its most primitive form. It's dead simple seat of the pants aviation. I wonder if the hotshot flyboys would be comfortable in a rig like that.

I drove on and retook the interstate and as I was getting off of it the cell phone rang. It was Neighbor Bob.

He said he had a pizza and he'd meet me in my garage when I got home.

The sun was now down as I pulled the little car into the garage. The day was over and although I didn't get the project down back done, I had used the day well. It hadn't been wasted.

We ate pizza and drank a beer and sat in the garage and another neighbor dropped by for a drink and shortly thereafter I went upstairs and did a little paperwork.

The day was over and I felt pretty good about it.

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